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Foreign cinema has a few successful films to unload onto eager western audiences a couple of times each year, and Shutter is just one of a handful that has made it to western shores recently. But as this one is Asian and is a based in the horror genre, you can expect some pale faced women with long dark hair to pay you a visit in your sleep... Yes, you’ve guessed it, Shutter is yet another re-enactment of Ringu ( The Ring), but is it a good one?

Shutter
Feature
Now and again I seem to have the same argument with family and friends in regards to foreign films. Some argue that foreign cinema isn't superior to Hollywood, it's just that in any given year we see only its finer efforts and not the heaps of crap it’s sure to produce in-between the better releases.

Then there are the ones who argue the counter point to the above. These people firmly believe that Hollywood is in the shadow of every foreign film. Me? Well I happen to agree with pure logic here. Of course foreign cinema produces crap, just as Hollywood does, perhaps just as much in fact, as hard as that is to believe. But this filter system foreign cinema has in place allows those of us who can appreciate the acquired taste of foreign film the luxury of enjoying only the finest selection. If only Hollywood could work the same for its native audience... I can only dream.

Anyway, onto the film we have for up for review today. Does it fall victim to being one of those filler releases or is it one of those aforementioned gems? To be honest, it’s a mixture of both. Shutter is a good film, don’t get me wrong, but in short is one of those pictures that manages to break into the western market with amicable, but oddly apathetic success. It's a typically dark, gritty thriller that looks the part of an eastern horror in every regard. Perhaps the best comparison to use is The Ring ( Ringu in Japan) and The Grudge ( Ju-on). Here you’ll find the same pale faced creepy makeup effects and shadowy figures that you did in the two aforementioned films, but thankfully Shutter has more than enough of its own merits to warrant some shred of dignity at least. And just of note, it blows The Grudge clean out of the water.

Shutter
As the title suggests, the film focuses on the art of photography, or at least tells the somewhat predictable tale of what happens after the events of a tragic car accident leaves someone for dead. A lot of the story admittedly gives way to the creation of a tense and brooding atmosphere and some shock/scare value, but it at least spends some time trying to develop the characters. This is quite unlike a lot of genre films of this nature in which you’d be lucky to catch any first names, save for the screaming damsel in distress of course.

Things do get quite interesting when Tun (well played by Ananda Everingham) and his girlfriend Jane (Natthaweeranuch Thongmee) begin to encounter ghostly apparitions in his photos, but sadly this eventually leads down a predictably gloomy path of spiritual encounters and generally creepy happenings. Basic stuff really, and a lot of it painfully predictable, save for some plot twists thrown in for good measure.

Shutter is a far cry from being perfect. It’s a good film, but not a great one. Its formula you will have seen play out dozens of times before in these supernatural ghost stories, and you know exactly what you’re getting within about five minutes of runtime. In this regard, Shutter falls ill to the same clichés as most Hollywood horrors have been of late, only with a touch more style and atmosphere. I would still recommend it, especially if you’ve seen and enjoyed The Ring and The Grudge, but don’t expect it to leave you bedazzled by originality.

Shutter
Video
The picture quality on this release is somewhat typical for the source material; peppered with film grain and less than impressive sharpness overall. Oftentimes the picture appears out of focus, even blurry, but these scenes are few and far between. The problem is that for the most part everything appears too soft, when it perhaps needed to look sharper and more aggressive.

Black levels are pretty deep though, but mostly the picture is just dark and gloomy (sometimes in a good way), but rarely does it live up to basic standard of modern DVD releases. Still, the excessive grain and almost amateurish look perhaps aids the creepy atmosphere somewhat, but that is no excuse for looking substandard at the end of the day. So, in summary, while you wont find a horrendous transfer with Shutter, it certainly isn’t noteworthy or commendable either. One for the less enthusiastic perhaps.

I have to confess slight disappointment about something else, but it’s no major fault of this DVD, and it certainly won't get bumped down a point for it, but this is the first DVD I have tried out on my brand spanking new Denon DVD player. Suffice to say, it was hardly worth my while.

Shutter
Audio
Shutter packs in a decent Dolby Digital 5.1 (Thai) soundtrack which serves the film well enough. There's nothing spectacular here but then the film never exactly calls for an epic undertaking with thunderous bass and explosive surround sound. If you are expecting that, though, you may find yourself disappointed.

Shutter is more a dialogue driven experience with the occasional outburst of sound, and in these moments you can expect tame lower-end frequencies and decent if unimpressive directional audio. Where the soundtrack shines, though, is where it (thankfully) counts: its dialogue handling through the centre channel. This it does with enough clout that it could be commendable, but it still falls slightly short every now and then to keep it from true perfection.

For the DTS inclined, there’s an option for you too. I normally prefer a good DTS track, but here the difference between it and the Dolby Digital one is marginal at best. It’s still a nice option to have though, but more effort could have been put into it.

Shutter
Extras
Disc one kicks things into action with a small handful of trailers for The Grudge and its sequel, and there are others for City of Violence and Typhoon. Sadly there is no audio commentary. That is, until you reach disc two, where you can enjoy watching the whole film in a thumbnail view, with the director and some cast members shown in a larger window giving full on commentary with subtitles. A nice addition, but I think I’d have preferred to have the commentary in the traditional method instead of this. I don’t exactly know why, but it somehow feels less like a true commentary than if it had been attached to the first disc. Perhaps it’s just me being old fashioned?

Up next is a promotion gallery, which is a pleasant way of saying it’s a collection of trailers and TV spots basically. Second to last you get a nine minute making of feature which is as generic as they come, and lastly some production notes. Not the best collection of extras in the world, and I am sure they could have packed these onto the first disc and done away with disc two altogether if they’d provided a typical audio commentary.

Overall
Shutter is good, especially if you like other Asian horror flicks. While it’s better than some, it’s also inspired by Ringu in such a way that you know exactly what you’re getting at pretty much every step. It does have a lot of its own ideas to bring to the table, but it still feels like you’re watching more of the same thing regardless of that. The DVD is a mixed bag too. The audio and video aspects are average to decent and the extras disappoint a little. On the whole, this is a decent DVD, but nothing stands out as being anything other than ordinary.


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